This year has already shaped up to be a fairly memorable year, what with my exploits in Indoor Skydiving, graduating, white water rafting, and then my “Birth Month Celebrations” that included turning 30, running a 10k [did I talk about that epic adventure yet? I'll have to fill you in soon], and watching a borderline inappropriate puppet improv show [I'll let you try to wrap your head around that one], and one of my favorite moments to date: riding along with the San Francisco Fire Department.
Firelady has been inviting me to visit her at work for several years now, but since I was always working, I just couldn’t get our schedules to match up (because it seemed kind of weird to take off work to hang out at someone else’s job) but since I’m out on “sabbatical” I figured why not now? I finally got around to scheduling my ride-along at the end of August and I’m kind of bummed that I hadn’t done it sooner.
Sidebar: I will admit that I’ve always had this thing about firefighters since I was in preschool after we had a fire engine visit and I got to hold the hose, which later blew up while I was in elementary school. Well, really it was because I had this thing about Prince Charming from Cinderella. Wait! I have a point. I promise! So I was obsessed with the movie and while I was at my friend’s house one day, his sister was having a slumber party and they were watching Cinderella and their dad popped in and made some joke about being Prince Charming in real life. Well, in my six year old mind, that made him the most awesome person in the world coupled with the fact that he was a fireman. Oh my poor six year mind was blown. Prince Charming AND a fireman? Mr. Baker, when you walked me home that night, you cemented your place in my six-year old heart.
And we digress. I took the little six-year old me and spent a lovely Friday with Battalion 3, which is made up of four stations: Stations 1, 8, 35 [which includes two fire boats!] and 48. Upon my arrival, Firelady filled me in about the “Ride Along Curse” where those were typically the days that were quiet. While I was hoping to see some kind of action that day, I did feel pretty weird about hoping for it. I mean, I didn’t want someone’s house to catch on fire. But I do feel that the “curse” is actually a good thing because it sets the record straight on what actually happens on a daily basis. We always think firefighters are rushing out to fight fires all day, every day. Sometimes they do, most times they don’t. It’s a lot of rushing to the scene to find out it’s only a false alarm, or someone burned a pan while cooking, or someone thought they smelled gas but it turned out to be some neighboring building was having its roof re-tarred, or even getting called off at the last minute, things like that.
Sure there are fires to fight, but for the most part, it’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” going on. We had a fair amount of downtime to attend to the daily duties that she has to do, like checking on her other stations, meetings, fire inspections and the like. But what I really enjoyed was being able to spend time with Firelady and get a better idea of what she experiences every day. She’s a really fascinating person [outside of being a firefighter] and I’m really honored that she invited me to share a small tastes of her life away from church.
So what did I get to see that day [I can't disclose specifics here due to a NDA]? A few false alarms, one including a very eye-opening conversation with a “concerned neighbor” who doesn’t know the meaning of too much information [I had a great laugh with the tillerman [that's the guy that steers the back of the fire truck] about that], a naked man riding a bicycle during Critical Mass, how crazy a Battalion Chief’s vehicle gets on calls [there's a monitor that lists the pertinent info, a radio that's connected to dispatch, and then a personal radio so they can talk to the dispatched stations and all of them are going at once...while they're driving!], and how to navigate to calls that require going over the Bay Bridge. In traffic. But the highlight of the day? Riding the fire boat!
Station 35 has two fire boats and after our morning rounds, invited me back for a ride on the boat before they headed out to test out a new foam hose they just had installed. I have always wanted to ride on one of these boats so I was really excited about the chance to finally check it out. They took me and a couple of police officers out for a quick spin on the bay along the Embarcadero. The weather was perfect and I really enjoyed the view of the Ferry Building, Golden Gate, Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge. I think the trip lasted about 15 or so minutes but it was a wonderful experience that few have actually had the pleasure of having.
I absolutely would love to join Firelady again on another ride along but even if I never get that chance, I’m most certainly grateful for this one. Thanks again to Battalion 3, Stations 1, 8, 35 and 48 for welcoming me into your houses and a special shot out to Stations 8 for housing and feeding me [and for making sure the bathrooms were especially clean] and Station 35 for the epic boat ride. Stay safe guys.